I'm a Cardinals fan first and foremost. When I was in college and had gobs of extra time (retrospectively, it always feels like I had more hours in the day in the past), I used to know the standings on any given day. I'd could usually name the first 4 starter pitchers, the closer and the starting position players. The real world has a way of eating up that free time and I often find myself with no real perspective on what the rest of the league is doing. I lose the forest for the tree of Cardinal fandom. Since the Cardinals are 6.5 games back with about 15 games left, let's look at the other divisions to see how the playoffs are shaking out.
New York is just a half game up on the Tampa Bay Rays as of this writing. These two teams have to be considered the premier clubs of the 2010 season. New York as a team has a .347 wOBA lead by Robinson Cano. They are, simply put, an offensive juggernaut. Their pitching staff features arguably the best pitcher in baseball right now with CC Sabathia and an ageless Andy Pettite to secure the front of the staff that is something of a middle of the pack rotation.
The Rays really have little to worry about given that they are 6.5 games up on the number two team in the wild card standings, Boston. Tampa has an above average starting squad and a starting rotation that makes scouts drool. They look to battle the Yankees down the stretch and in the post season for AL dominance.
The Twins have run away with this division with a 10 game lead over the Chicago White Sox. In the last 10 games, the White Sox, despite the acquisition of Manny Ramirez, have gone 2-8 while the Twins have gone 8-2. Tell me that doesn't feel like the same predicament the Cardinals have faced. Jim Thome at age 40 is posting a sick .436 wOBA in ~300 PAs as the clubs DH. I remember when Philly moved him to make room for Ryan Howard. Thome has continued to be a remarkably productive player despite his various maladies and injuries. Francisco Liriano has a 2.36 FIP. Seriously, a 2.36 FIP.
The Rangers have claimed the division over a trio of sub-.500 clubs. Seattle at 56-91 is 26.5 games out of first place and looks destined for a 100 loss season. (#6 org) The Rangers have Josh Hamilton sporting a .274 ISO, good for 6th best in all of MLB. Nelson Cruz, once maligned as a quad-A player is having a productive season. Colby Lewis, former first round draft pick for the Rangers in 1999, was mired in the minors, pitched in Japan and finally transformed himself from pitcher to thrower before signing a two year deal with the Rangers in the last offseason. The Rangers have to feel pretty good about that signing with Lewis posting a 3.67 FIP in 183 innings. TINSTAPP fails 11 years later for this former draftee styled as an ace.
The first race that is in serious contention with a team that could flat out miss the playoffs. Philadelphia is currently 2.5 games up on the Braves. For the Braves, I'm impressed that a club who lost one of it's best starters -- Chipper Jones -- continues to chug along. Jason Heyward is a large part of this with a team leading .388 wOBA. Tommy Hanson and Tim Hudson both sport sub 4.00 FIPs.
The Phillies still have nominal control over the division lead by a (repeat Cy Young) Roy Halladay. Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels round out the top of a very impressive rotation. Can you fathom how good this team would have been with Cliff Lee. Jayson Werth, headed into his first MAJOR contract, leads the club in wOBA.
The Reds are 6.5 games up on the Cardinals.
San Diego and San Francisco are currently tied for the division lead with Colorado just a game back. To make things even more interesting, they're also just 1.5 games removed from the wild card lead. From a largely uninformed viewpoint, I feel like the Padres have been out playing their true talent level for most of the year. There's no one on that club who strikes me as a truly elite player outside of Adrian Gonzalez. (Aside - is it just me or has the Gonzalez trade talk completely died this year?)
Colorado always seems to make a strange push in the latter half of the season; they are reminiscent of the Astros in that fashion. Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki are probably both due for some MVP votes especially if the Rockies push into the playoffs.
The Giants, led by power house Aubrey Huff (?!?), rely heavily on their pitching rotation featuring five pitchers who could all be considered above average: Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez, Madison Bumgarner, Barry Zito. But seriously, Aubrey Huff?
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Game time is 1:15pm. 1:00 game thread. Have a good Sunday.